Understanding Governor Scott's Initial COVID-19 Executive Order

(Originally Posted 3/14/2020; re-posted 3/30/2020)

The following is a re-issue from an earlier update (3/14/20); all the information in it remains accurate and important to understand.
March 13, 2020, Governor Phil Scott issued Executive Order NO. 01-20 , which clearly lays out the reasoning for and the steps that need to be taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in order to conserve medical resources for the most vulnerable among us.
The following excerpts from the executive order speak for themselves:
  • We now know that while most individuals affected by COVID-19 will experience mild flu-like symptoms, some individuals, especially those who are elderly or already have severe underlying chronic health conditions will have more serious symptoms and require hospitalization.
  • Both travel-related cases and community contact transmission of COVID-19 have been detected in the region and this transmission is expected to continue.
  • If no mitigation steps are taken, COVID-19 would likely spread in Vermont at a rate similar to the rate of spread in other states and countries, and the number of persons requiring medical care could exceed locally available resources.
  • It is critical we take steps to control outbreaks of COVID-19, particularly among those who are elderly or already have underlying chronic health conditions, to minimize the risk to the public, maintain the health and safety of Vermonters, and limit the spread of infection in our communities and within our healthcare facilities.
  • Vermonters must come together as we have before in a crisis, to do our part to protect the very ill and elderly by preventing and slowing the spread of this virus and ensure those who experience the most severe symptoms have access to the care they need
The executive order goes on to describe various steps the state is taking to address the above, including the following social distancing measures:
  • Prohibiting visitor access to nursing homes, assisted living residences, and therapeutic community residences and limiting visitor access to hospitals in order to reduce facility-based transmission
  • Encouraging and facilitating telework among State employees with the capacity to work remotely 
  • Prohibiting all large non-essential mass gatherings of more than 250 people in a single space at the same time for social and recreational activities, although, for now, this would not include airports, bus or railway stations or spaces where it would be unusual for people to be within arm's length of one another, such as retail and grocery stores and certain office environments. 
You can find all of the steps ordered by the Governor written in legalese here or read a news story on this in vermontdigger.com, the Times-Argus or VPR.com
However, these are likely to just be first steps. Already health experts across the country are calling for even more stringent measures. See for example: Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day by Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH. originally published by Ariadne Labs on March 13, 2020 | Updated March 14, 2020
“We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track  to repeat what is unfortunately happening there and throughout much of the rest of Europe very soon. At this point, containment through contact tracing and increased testing is only part of the necessary strategy. We must move to pandemic mitigation through widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing….Our health system will not be able to cope with the projected numbers of people who will need acute care should we not muster the fortitude and will to socially distance each other starting now….Even moderate projections suggest that if current infectious trends hold, our capacity (locally and nationally) may be overwhelmed as early as mid-late April. Thus, the only strategies that can get us off this concerning trajectory are those that enable us to work together as a community to maintain public health by staying apart.”
Closer to home, Vermont Digger recorded the following, highly informative podcast with Dr. Joshua White, chief medical officer at Gifford Medical Center: Podcast: The Deeper Dig: Preparing — not panicking — before the outbreak expands
“When we’re talking about things like social distancing, those are strategies that are important and to be applauded, because those will slow the spread of the virus. If you are healthy, but infected, and feeling fine, you[r] not interacting with other people is going to slow this virus down….imagine a given health care system...has a certain capacity. There are a certain number of hospital beds, or a certain number of ER beds, or a certain number of patients we can process [at] any time. If we slow this virus down, the surge of patients that we’ll see will flatten. And it is less likely to extend beyond that capacity and for a shorter time period, and that’s going to save lives.”

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